Russian ace comes back from a set down to beat Carla Suarez Navarro 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the final
Rome: Russia's Maria Sharapova warmed up for the defence of her French Open title by securing her third Italian Open crown with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro yesterday.
Maria Sharapova holds her trophy after winning the women's Italian Open final against Carla Suarez Navarro in Rome yesterday. Pic/AFP
Suarez, bidding for only the second title of her career but first from the Masters 1000 series, made a stunning start at the Foro Italico where the players faced sweltering conditions. The Spanish 10th seed broke the World No 3 midway through the opening set and had Sharapova on the ropes in a tight second before Sharapova found the breakthrough.
Sharapova broke the Spaniard in the eighth game of the second set for a 5-3 lead and after going on to hand her opponent three break points in the next game she recovered to level the match.
The diminutive Suarez struggled with Sharapova's movement and variety of shots, in particular the Russian's two-handed backhand, which she used to devastating effect throughout.
However, Sharapova will be looking to improve several aspects of her game — notably in terms of unforced errors — if she is to go all the way in Paris in the coming weeks.
American rival Serena Williams, the winner in Rome the past two years, withdrew before the third round earlier this week citing an elbow injury and will be desperate to avenge her first round defeat in Paris last year.
Sharapova handed Suarez a break point in the opening game of the third set and despite twice saving the game Suarez moved ahead when Sharapova hit an easy return just wide.
That setback only served to spur the Russian, who broke back immediately, sealing the game with a two-handed backhand return that Suarez did not even bother to try and reach.
Sharapova moved 3-1 ahead when Suarez, having first saved break point, conceded the game with a weak return that hit the net — effectively ending her challenge.
Novak Djokovic was among three Italian Open finalists to hit out at organisers after a "dangerous" semi-final win in which he escaped twisting his ankle in holes that appeared on court.
The clay surface breaks up under Djokovic
Several times during his semi-final against David Ferrer, Djokovic called officials to fill in holes which began appearing near the baseline.
"At this level, every single thing matters to us, especially the court and the playing conditions. It's obvious the court is not where it's supposed to be condition-wise," he said.
Djokovic wasn't alone: both Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer suffered similar experiences on centre court during their semi-finals.